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Charles H. (Hap) Fisher

by Susan J. Ainsworth
July 4, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 27

Charles H. (Hap) Fisher, 104, a retired director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southern Research & Development Laboratory who continued to conduct research until age 100, died in Roanoke, Va., on May 13.

Born in Hiawatha, W.Va., Fisher received a B.S. degree in chemistry at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., in 1928. He then earned a Ph.D. in 1932 at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, under the direction of R. C. Fuson.

Fisher began his career working as an instructor at Harvard University for three years. He then moved to the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh, where he worked on the hydrogenation of coal. In 1940, he joined USDA’s Eastern Regional Research Laboratory in Philadelphia as head of the Organic Acids Section, and in 1946 he was promoted to head of the Carbohydrate Research Division.

In 1950, Fisher was appointed director of USDA’s Southern Research & Development Laboratory, which included laboratories in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina. The lab became internationally known for research on the chemistry of cotton, cottonseed oil, peanuts, sugarcane, pine gum, and other southern agricultural products during Fisher’s 22 years as director. Fisher’s work there produced wrinkle-resistant and fire-retardant cotton and methods for producing frozen orange juice.

After his retirement in 1972, Fisher was named an adjunct research professor of chemistry at Roanoke College. He continued to do research, write, consult, and travel until his second retirement at the age of 100.

He is credited with more than 200 publications and more than 70 patents. Fisher received the Roanoke College Medal in 1996. The college established the Charles H. Fisher Lecture Series in 1990 and named its organic chemistry laboratory in his honor in 2002. He also received the Charles H. Herty Medal from the Georgia Section of ACS and the USDA Superior Service Award, and was named a Chemical Pioneer by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Fisher was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1932 and serving as a member of the board of directors from 1969 to 1971. He was also a longtime member of the American Institute of Chemists and AIChE.

Fisher is survived by his third wife, Elizabeth. His former wives, Nona and Lois, predeceased him.



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